For the record I never put any conscious effort into trying to kill my brother. I will admit there were times I would, sometimes with the aid of our sister Becky, tease him a little. But only a little. I will also admit that I was really really good at it but that’s all it was, teasing. Something everyone does to their little brother if they have one. Right?
For example, as children my sister and I had Bubba completely convinced that we had another brother before him. The deception didn‘t take much skill really. I just, out of the blue one day, said, “We had another brother once”, and he bought it. Other Brother became a recurring theme whenever we teased Bubba, which we did whenever we found ourselves bored of feeling like life was too quiet.
Like a campfire ghost story Other Brother always died horrible deaths and his body was buried or hidden in a variety of places around the country. If we were driving down a back road in Missouri and we were all getting along I would turn to Becky and say, “Hey,does this look familiar to you?”.
Without skipping a beat or changing the direction she was looking she’d reply, “This is where we buried our Other Brother”. At this point our mother would hear us and step in to stop us but would inadvertently help us out.
“You two stop telling him that! He already gets nightmares!”.
We’d be quiet for a few minutes then whisper, “See, she’s mad that we told you … because you’re next”.
Ideas for how to wage this psychological warfare popped up everywhere. One year we had a classmate that had been born with only one arm. It was explained to everyone in the fourth grade that birth defects happened to a lot of people for no reason. To me this meant birth defects could be anywhere. So I started looking for them everywhere. I was successful from time to time, a missing limb here, a hare lip there, but not enough to make me totally satisfied. To compensate I came up with the idea of convincing Bubba, that he had been born with defects.
I decided missing body parts were too difficult to plan for. Bubba was dumb but he could probably tell if he was missing a finger or a foot. I guess I could have told him he was missing something hidden, like a kidney or a spleen but missing internal organs isn’t as embarrassing.
So I went with and extra body part. At first I thought of telling him he had been born with a tail. I figured since he couldn’t see where any leftover surgical scar would have been it would have been an easy sale. But that was amateur stuff and I was better than that. Besides, something told me Bubba would have liked telling people he had been born with a tale.
“You know”, I said one afternoon in our bedroom, “I think I finally figured out why you you still need training wheels on your bike. You used to have a three legs when you were a baby and mom had to cut off the one in the middle leg with a steak knife so we wouldn’t have to buy a bunch of extra shoes. She probably missed some extra bones in your butt and they throw off your balance”
He digested the information for a moment then gave his standard reply, “Nuh Huh”. Then he thought about it before he ran off yelling through the house in the direction of the kitchen to confirm his “nuh huh” with our mother.
“Mom, did I have an extra leg you had to cut off with a steak knife because you didn’t want to buy shoes?”
This confused our mother. Partly because it was being yelled as fast as a five year old speak and at the top of his lung. Partly because she was cutting up a chicken for dinner and had just removed a leg. She thought the “cut off leg” was talking about was referring the chicken leg in her hand.
“What are you talking about?”, she asked?
“Steve said you cut off my leg with a steak knife when I was a baby because you wouldn’t buy shoes”. Bubba paraphrased poorly and this usually worked in my advantage.
Hearing my name, and being aware of the things I would say to Bubba in order to harass him, was as enough to snap my mother snap my mother out of her confusion.
“Get out of this kitchen and stop listening to him”, Coincidently she shoo’d him out of the kitchen with a knife. Not a steak knife, which would have been ideal, but that would have been too much to ask for.
He came back to our room where I had listened to the entire exchange. “Mom said not to listen to you”, he said in a “ha ha” sort of way.
“But she didn’t saaaaay she didn’t do it right?” I asked him making sure to stretch out the word “say” so he got the point.
“I’m not listening to you”, and he put his fingers in his hears chanting, “La La La” in the classic sound input aversion technique that all kids just know.
He grew bored of it soon enough and when I knew he could hear me again I said, “Well, you can probably still see the scar under your weiner where they cut your leg off. Go check”.
He sat on his bed a minute trying to pretend that he had successfully ignored me, but the temptation to find out was too much, and he ran into the bathroom to check for a scar.
Thanks to our full set of Encyclopedia Britannica sold to us by a door to door salesman I knew what Bubba would see when he peered down between his legs. The Perineal Raphe, a seam that runs from the anus, up the scrotum to the penis of every male mammal on Earth. It’s a leftover from fetal development and, best of all, it looks exactly like a really long scar made by a steak knife.
Bubba must of thought so too because from the bathroom I heard a scream. This made him the first person to scream while looking at his balls but probably not the last. I couldn’t see him but I pictured him clearly, jeans to his knees, bent over as far as he could, pulling on his scrotum, and screaming like a girl.
I evacuated the house knowing I would probably get the blame for him being so gullible. This was just like the time I got unfairly blamed when he didn’t duck when I threw that tiny rock that probably didn’t hurt him nearly as much as he pretended it did. Or when he didn’t get out of the way when I was on the riding lawn mower and ran over his toe, the little toe, not an important one. I was right, I got blamed and punishment later that evening was a somber lecture about how to treat a little brother. So, no punishment at all.
These stories of minor psychological warfare soon became part of the family lore and, as far as I know, are still being recounted around picnic tables and at restaurants where everything is fried. If any of my relatives ever said I was a terrible child or a bad seed because of my activities it was said through laughter and with more than a little pride.
These are not the stories that Bubba recites when he decides to make the case that his childhood was a series of attempts on his life. “I was lucky I growed up at all”. This would start start if there was a lull in a conversation at a family gathering. The immediate family, cousins, aunts, uncles etc, knew to ignore him or to just walk away. Great aunts and uncles or more distant cousins didn’t know they weren’t supposed to pay too close of attention to him if they ever wanted him to stop.
The stories aren’t told for entertainment value but are presented more like evidence is presented to judge and jury. If there is someone standing near by that may have been involved in his story in some way they’re called as a witness, “‘Member that time they tried to push me off the cliff?” or “‘Member that time they chained me up in the basement in my underwear?” . The stories were all true. He just told them in a way that made him look like the victim.
I haven’t been officially accused of anything but I will take a few moments to tell my side of some of his favorite stories. If Bubba disagrees with me then he’s free to write his own essay on the subject.
In the beginning life was pretty good for me. Yes, we were poor and on welfare. Yes, my father had just died leaving my mother a teenage widow. But what was most important, at least to me, was that I was an only child. Before Bubba was born I held the title of oldest child, oldest grandchild and the oldest great grandchild. I was a triple threat. If there was such a thing as a white trash throne I would have been the only obvious heir.
My time as heir apparent was short lived. A mere twenty months after I was born Bubba arrived to siphon off much of the attention that was due me. Though is real name is Darren Eugene I dubbed him Bubba. The women of my family thought it was cute that I was trying to say “brother” so it stuck. They didn’t realize that with him lying there, bald and drooling with nothing coming out of his mouth making any sense, he just looked like a ‘Bubba’.
I resented by my little brother from the beginning. I named him, I out ranked him and, though I didn’t bring him into this world, I could take him out. Then we could go back to the good days when I was the only child.